We recently took Benji to a meeting of the Ft. Myers Coin Club. It convenes once a month at a community center about two miles from our home. We’ve been wondering about maybe starting him into coin collecting and my wonderful wife discovered that this local club met close to home and was free of charge to visit. Close to home and free, count me in! We arrived a little early and saw some members setting up some coins (and other currency) on tables. We perused the displays for about half an hour as latecomers filtered in. Some of the coins looked impressive, others not so much, at least to the untrained eye. Some were only 30 years or so old, others were dated more than two centuries ago! By the time the meeting was officially called to order there were probably just under a hundred attendees. There were some opening announcements followed by a presentation from the club president about a series in his collection called the Stone Mountain Half Dollars. Next on the agenda was an auctioning of various coins that had been brought to the meeting. It was mind-blowing to hear these folks who knew about numismatics (a new word I learned which basically means the study of coin collecting) discuss, describe, delineate, and determine the value of each offering. There were coins I would have thought worth a great deal that ended up being common fare. There were other coins I would have been inclined to put in the vending machine (hoping it would take them) that were greatly sought after and brought quite a price. You see, it takes someone who knows the marks of what’s true and valuable to really discern the value of a coin. In this month’s newsletter we will look at the life of Micaiah, a lesser known prophet from the Old Testament only mentioned in one chapter of Scripture (1 Kings 22), to see what the marks of a genuine prophet, a real minister of God and indeed a real believer in God, truly are! We look to Scripture for only God’s Word can inform our “untrained eyes” to truly know the distinguishing characteristics of unfeigned spirituality!
Mark 1—True Prophets Usually Aren’t Popular, Especially With The Powerful—Turn into the telecast and the “church” has a stadium packed with people. The “minister” up front stands on a stage with no cross to be found anywhere in sight. He tells the “congregation” and his TV audience (his is the most popular religious program in America today!) week after week that God approves of them and is going to bless them, that they are getting ready to go into a new season of their lives, that this new season will be characterized by worldly success and favor, that they should literally look into their mirrors at home and verbally declare that they are beautiful, that they are gifted, that they are successful, that they are all that they need to be. This leader boasts that his bestselling books are read by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and people of no faith at all alike. (Of course people of all backgrounds want success don’t they? Especially if there’s no call to repentance or claim to the exclusivity of Christ for salvation). This “pastor” is invited onto multiple secular TV programs and celebrated by the powerful and popular of this world. (Once, when given opportunity by a secular news host to tell the American people what one message he would give to them at Easter time he said that he would want people to know that they should be for themselves and that God is for them and that they should believe in themselves—no focus on or hardly even a mention of sin, repentance, the cross, or the resurrection! And did I mention this was even at Easter time!). Now certainly just because a church is big and a minister popular doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a false teacher, but it wasn’t for no reason that Jesus said, “woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way (Luke 6:26.)”
…1 Kings 22 relates to us the account of King Ahab, a wicked ruler from the Northern Kingdom of Israel, collaborating with King Jehoshaphat, a mostly godly monarch from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, to battle against King Ben-hadad of Syria. (Note: remember that at this time the 12 Jewish tribes had split into two nations, ten tribes formed Israel in the North and two tribes comprised Judah in the South). Before going into battle, Jehoshaphat wanted to get a word from the Lord as to whether or not they would be successful. Ahab called together about 400 of the prophets from his land and they all, without exception, said “go up, for the Lord will give it (the land and the victory) into the hand of the king.” For some reason, Jehoshaphat seemed unconvinced that the word of these men actually represented the voice of God. He asked Ahab if there were any other prophet of the Lord from which they could inquire. Ahab reluctantly tells of one other prophet, Micaiah. The wicked king hated this true prophet of God because he always prophesied evil concerning Ahab. Jehoshaphat gets Ahab to call for Micaiah and sure enough, true to expectations, the prophet foretells a disastrous demise for the king of Israel. Just ask Micaiah, true prophets usually aren’t popular, especially with the powerful.
Mark 2—True Prophets Are Usually Outnumbered—There were 400 prophets telling Ahab that he would be successful; there was only one prophet telling the king that he would meet his doom. There were 400 prophets of Baal but only one Elijah. There were hundreds telling the people of Jeremiah’s day that God was pleased with them and that they would have peace but only one genuine man of God declaring to his countrymen that they must turn or burn, repent or face destruction from Babylon. There were many false Christs who arose prior to Jesus’ birth and many who have come in the two millennia since, but there is only one Who is the true Messiah and genuine Son of the living God! There were many money changers in the Temple, but only One who was turning over the tables. There were 10 lepers healed, but only one who returned to give thanks. There are many who go down the broad path of destruction but only few who go the narrow way that leads to life. There are many who will say “Lord, Lord” and yet will hear “depart from me for I never knew you!” but comparatively few who will hear “well done thou good and faithful servant.” There are more than 70% of Americans who claim to be Christians, but only 31% attend a church that even claims to be of the Christian faith (and of course there are many of those churches who don’t actually preach a saving gospel) on any kind of regular basis. I could go on and on here with example after example but search throughout the pages of the Bible and throughout the years of all of human history and you will find that the true prophets of God, the true people of God, are always outnumbered by those who are false converts and openly worldly. Indeed, the Christian faith is a remnant faith! But thank God, He will always have a people!
Mark 3—True Prophets Are Generally Underpaid, Or Not Paid At All—The para church group has equipped and sent thousands of teenagers on short term missions trips for a number of years. I was familiar with the organization and some of those individuals affiliated with it in my college years. They were impressive and have doubtless done much good work. 15 or so years ago they fell into financial hardship. Some of the organizations leaders thought they could help find an answer to their fiscal troubles by inviting a popular minister to speak at one of their conventions. Reportedly, the hopes were that this well-known speaker would support the organization and, perhaps more importantly, that his supporters would support the organization. The famous “minister” was reportedly paid $100,000 (along with some other perks) for a 50 minute sermon!
I have personally heard certain “ministers” brag about their millions. One I’ve heard was even so bold as to claim to be a “billionaire.” Whether these claims are true or not I have no idea or personal knowledge to confirm or deny. That having been said, it is no secret that many of those who claim to be God’s spokespeople in our world today flaunt their wealth, whether real or imagined. They often cite their worldly affluence as a reason to give them spiritual influence. Confidence misplaced indeed!
Now don’t get me wrong. A believer (in general, not a minister) may be blessed by God with great material means. Also, a minister doesn’t have to live in the poor house. God’s Word is clear that it is right for one who preaches the gospel to make their living from the gospel and that a laborer is worthy of his hire. That having been said, don’t you think there comes a point where, at least for a minister, enough is enough and to live an overly opulent lifestyle being paid for by the gospel sets such a bad witness that it’s hard for the world’s ears to hear about Jesus when what their eyes see evidence such greed. You would be hard pressed to look through the pages of Scripture and find ministers who lived in great worldly affluence solely off of their work for the gospel. The 400 false prophets in 1 Kings 22 were on Ahab’s payroll. I don’t think Micaiah, the one true prophet represented in the passage had to worry about receiving a monthly love gift from the king!
Mark 4—True Prophets Are Usually Persecuted—The official “church” at the time forbid the Word of God to be in the language of the people. The leadership, largely immoral and unaccountable and filled with greed, thought it dangerous for the common man to have direct access to Scripture. William Tyndale, on the other hand, was convinced that there was no greater benefit that could be extended to a man, woman, or child than to be able to read the very Word of God for themselves in their own language. It is reported that he once told a “church” leader that if the Lord were to give him strength and grace then he would see to it that the common boy behind the plow would have more knowledge of God’s Word than the current Cardinal behind the pulpit. Tyndale went about the business of translating the Scriptures into English and as a result was a wanted man. He wandered as a fugitive for many years before being betrayed into the hands of the King of England. He would languish in prison for the better part of a decade before finally being burned at the stake. So much was he hated that the executioners strangled him before the fire had opportunity to consume him. They also put gun powder around the rope they strangled him with so that when the fire reached him it would literally blow his head off. Tyndale’s last prayer was that the king’s eyes would be opened. Not long afterwards Tyndale’s translation work was published as the Tyndale Bible and over 70% of the King James Bible that was to follow was based off of Tyndale’s work. …Micaiah told Ahab that he would be killed in battle and that the people of Israel would be as sheep without a shepherd. Ahab had Micaiah imprisoned (after a devotee to Ahab had already struck the true prophet) with orders to only give him food and water sparingly. The king said he would deal with Micaiah when he returned from battle. Micaiah replied to Ahab that if he returned from battle safely then he was a false prophet. Ahab went into battle, disguising himself in such a way that he thought he would be protected. Nevertheless, a “stray”, but providential, arrow hit Ahab in battle and he perished just as Micaiah had prophesied. Now think about it, the true prophet who spoke God’s word, a word that if Ahab had heeded it would have spared his life, is suffering in prison. The false prophets, who instilled in Ahab a false sense of security and gave the king a word that would lead to his death, were sitting pretty and being paid by the king himself! It doesn’t seem to make sense, but sin never does. The false prophets are loved and paid handsomely by this world all the while declaring false teaching that leads to devastation in this life and in the next. The true prophets are largely ridiculed, devalued, and persecuted for true teaching that if followed would lead to repentance and salvation and reconciliation between God and man through Christ Jesus.